Isro asks for more money as spectrum crunch flares up

Written by Ashish Sinha | New Delhi | Updated: Mar 10 2010, 05:07am hrs
With acute shortage of broadcasting spectrum for both existing and new television channels, the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) is asking for Rs 50,000 per mega hertz (Mhz) or around Rs 18 lakh per transponder per month from broadcasters for its upcoming satellite, Insat-4G, set to be launched in the second quarter of this year. This is a first by Isro for the broadcast sector, technical experts say.

Insat-4G will carry 24 ku-band transponders and will be helpful for news broadcaster to enhance their DSNG (digital satellite news gathering) operations. DSNG or outside broadcast (OB) vans are used by the news channels to help cover news operations in real time and they use the ku-band transmission for uplink of news broadcasts.

Advance money from interested broadcasters is mainly being asked to deter non-serious players who otherwise apply for additional capacity but do not use it efficiently, a government source involved with the satellite operations pertaining to the broadcast sector said.

Broadcasters and a few DTH operators are lining up to pay and block spectrum for expanding their channel-offering capacity and the overall news gathering operations. This is also significant for the direct-to-home (DTH) operations as most of the current DTH operators are close to exhausting their existing bandwidth of their DTH services.

In order to expand a DSNG operations broadcasters have to furnish proof of their satellite capacity with Isro. And in order to obtain a letter from Isro, broadcasters have to pay for spectrum on Insat-4G, a technical consultants to several media companies said requesting anonymity.

However, due to the proposed location of Insat-4G (55 degrees, east), DTH operators are not too keen to block spectrum on the satellite yet. The location of Insat-4G is such that we may have to provide an add-on antenna to the subscribers and re-tune their existing frequencies, a mammoth task for us, said an existing DTH operator.

This comes at a time when even the government is reviewing its policy of granting new television licences due to spectrum shortage. Already, 529 TV channels have the permission of operating in the country, while the ministry of information and broadcasting (I&B) is in the process of clearing an additional 155-plus pending applications for new TV channel licences. The broadcast sector regulator the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India --- has been asked by the I&B ministry to study the matter and submit its recommendations.

Isro asking for advance money for broadcasting bandwidth goes to prove that there is a real crisis of spectrum. If we are getting affected then there is indeed a pressing issue of reviewing the entry-norms and licensing conditions for future broadcasters, says a top executive in a leading news channel.